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    Operations at Habur Gate

    571st Movement Control Team

    Photo By Spc. Thomas Keeler | Stretching east into the nearby town of Zahko, empty trailers wait to reenter Turkey...... read more read more



    Story by Spc. Thomas Keeler 

    Minnesota National Guard

    FORWARD OPERATING BASE Q-WEST, Iraq — At the Turkish border, where it can feel like another country, a movement control unit carries out an important mission validating the goods shipped into Iraq.

    This area, the valley at the northern border of Iraq where the Habur River drains into the Tigris, has been a cultural trading post for generations, long before the war started.

    Today, truck drivers pass through here and back again, coming out of the mountains of Turkey to deliver cargo to coalition forces in the desert. After delivering their loads at forward operating bases across Iraq, the truck drivers — a majority of whom are from other Middle East countries — return to Habur Gate, where they wait to reenter Turkey and begin the process again.

    "Where our mission starts," said Capt. Jared Hill, operations officer-in-charge for the 571st Movement Control Team here, "is when these trucks start coming back across the border."

    The primary mission of the 571st MCT is to validate, receive, stage, manifest and monitor the movement of the cargo.

    The 571st MCT consists of about 25 personnel, as does the Logistics Task Force Bravo, who works shoulder-to-shoulder with the 571st MCT here to provide convoy support for the convoy logistics patrols that spend the night and escort the cargo trailers south the next day.

    Both the 571st MCT and LTF B make their headquarters in the four-story, block-shaped Ibrahim Khalil Customs Facility, also called the "Marble Palace" by its inhabitants. In addition to each unit's headquarters, the facility contains sleeping bays, a weight room, a game room, phones and Internet access, a small library with satellite television, and a comfortable cafeteria on the fourth floor, which opens to a patio overlooking the Habur River and the mountains of southeastern Turkey.

    For every trailer of goods that comes over the border, the 571st MCT looks for a Cargo Movement Request for that trailer. The 571st MCT validates that CMR with its "Habur Gate" stamp, which is recognized by the border patrol agents who handle passports and other international documents.

    Validating the CMR is the first step in allowing the drivers to bring their cargo south.

    "The two most important things on the CMR that they absolutely must have is a coalition Contract number and a military point of contact," said Hill.

    The drivers report to the "Cowboy" yard, named for the slow-moving, go-it-alone nature of the trucks that, for whatever reason, cannot keep up with the convoy to its destination. Once a rogue or broken-down truck is labeled a Cowboy, it will be granted only one or two more chances to make the drive south.

    At the Cowboy yard, the trucks from Turkey transfer their loads to trucks driven by Iraqis. A team of inspectors with the 571st MCT waits to look over the truck and the driver one last time before the driver joins the queue of trucks that will convoy out later that evening to Coalition bases.

    The inspectors are not concerned with keeping tabs on the foreign national truck drivers moving around the Iraqi theater, only that the driver is physically and mentally prepared to make the trip to their destination without unscheduled stops.

    With paperwork already indicating what each load will carry, the inspections can be quick.

    "If it says 'I'm carrying this' but then they're carrying something else, we have to turn them away," said Staff Sgt. Vicente Rascon, movement supervisor and operations non-commissioned officer-in-charge for the 571st MCT.

    The MCT will also reject a load, for example, if it's not secured properly, said Rascon. Many trucks on this trip will carry Class IV supplies — construction materials, which need to be staged carefully and securely on the flatbed trailer.

    Sometimes drivers will bring passengers with them to keep them company. This is acceptable — as long as the passengers are on the list.

    "If you don't let us know, I'm assuming you have someone who's not authorized, so of course I'm going to turn you away," said Rascon.

    Rascon's team inspects up to 40 trucks per day, and he estimates he only rejects about three to seven of the trucks he inspects. Though drivers might sometimes make mistakes, it's ultimately the trucking company that is responsible if the cargo doesn't reach its destination.

    On the next truck that pulls up, Rascon's team encounters a problem.

    Spc. Cerria White, an inspections specialist with the 571st MCT, uncovers from a side compartment below the trailer an improvised funneling device made from a plastic tube and a half-cut soda bottle.

    "This is what they use to steal fuel," she says, tossing the home-made contraption past the driver and into the dirt.

    Through an interpreter, White warns the driver, and the three circle around to the other side of the truck to continue the inspection. Nothing else is found. A few minutes later, the driver is explaining why such a device was found with his gear. The incident is noted, and the driver is allowed to continue.

    "They'll use hoses like that to fill up their tanks so that they can resell their fuel for a higher price later on and make a profit off of it," said Rascon.

    The next driver coming through faces a bigger problem — an extra fuel tank has been welded to the front of his trailer.

    "He's got two tanks," said White, explaining the trucks are only permitted one fuel tank and one water tank. "This extra tank on here is not even filled, so you can tell they haven't just been using it for backup."

    For this, the driver will not be allowed to join the convoy.

    For good measure, the inspection team removes some paperwork issued from a previous convoy, identifying placards that have expired and are no longer valid.

    The team has one more truck to inspect for the day. The cargo checks out, the driver checks out, and the inspection is clean. The truck driver will meet the other drivers at the coalition facility and wait to be escorted later that evening by the military convoy that will take them south.



    Date Taken: 04.08.2008
    Date Posted: 08.28.2009 21:47
    Story ID: 38100
    Location: QAYYARAH, IQ

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